F1: Sebastian Vettel returns to the top of the table in Japan after Lewis Hamilton briefly threatened the 2013 world champion in waiting

The Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Nico Rosberg topped the timesheets in first practice before Vettel and Mark Webber followed suit in second practice with a Red Bull one-two

Sebastian Vettel enjoyed the perfect scenario in second practice for the Japanese Grand Prix that if repeated in Sunday's race will see him crowned Formula One world champion for a fourth consecutive time.

At a Suzuka circuit where Vettel has been on pole at the last four races, winning three of them, the 26-year-old finished top of the timesheet in his Red Bull.

After Lewis Hamilton spearheaded a Mercedes one-two in the opening 90-minute session, so Vettel followed suit in the second run as he finished 0.168secs faster than team-mate Mark Webber.

With the teams switching to the faster medium-compound Pirelli tyres for a spell in FP2, after exclusively running on the slower, harder rubber in FP1, Vettel posted a time of one minute 33.852secs.

With a 77-point lead over his nearest rival in Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, Vettel can make it four championships in a row with a fifth straight win and if the Spaniard is ninth or lower.

In practice, Alonso could only finish 10th quickest, 1,235secs down on Vettel's pace as the German was the only driver to dip below the one minute 34secs mark.

Behind Webber was Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, a quarter of a second back, with Kimi Raikkonen fourth in his Lotus, albeit with his session cut short by 35 minutes as he spun into a gravel trap.

The Finn was followed by team-mate Romain Grosjean, with Hamilton only sixth and with a time three tenths of a second slower than his best in first practice.

Daniel Ricciardo appears solid in his Toro Rosso, the Australian seventh fastest ahead of Felipe Massa in his Ferrari, McLaren's Jenson Button and then Alonso who suffered a high-speed spin on the approach to the second Degner turn, although he managed to recover.

Force India's Paul Di Resta, one of many who suffered a minor spin, was 14th, just 0.066secs ahead of team-mate Adrian Sutil.

For a driver whose F1 future is in doubt, McLaren's Sergio Perez did himself no favours with a sizeable shunt on entry to one of Suzuka's renowned turns, the Spoon Curve.

Clipping the astroturf to his right on the outside apex of the long left-hander, and in hitting the brakes, Perez skewed sideways before slamming the right-hand side of his car into a barrier.

That incident came moments after Williams' Pastor Maldonado suffered his second shunt of the day, on this occasion losing his car on entry to the second Degner where he buried the nose in a tyre wall.

That made Maldonado the third driver to crash at the same corner as Marussia's Jules Bianchi and Giedo van der Garde did so in FP1.

For Bianchi, his car was damaged to such an extent, the team were unable to carry out the necessary repairs in time for FP2, instead concentrating on building up the spare chassis in time for final practice tomorrow.

As for Maldonado in first practice, the left-rear wheel of his car became inexplicably detached.

Approaching Spoon, Maldonado ran wide, but as he attempted to make his way back on track, the Venezuelan was forced into a spin as the wheel worked loose, it then bouncing into a gravel trap where it was recovered by marshals.


Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
food + drink
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits